Intention vs Perfect Alignment
Updated: Jan 26
I wanted to share my thoughts about Yoga injuries and haw to avoid them. My path to Yoga initiated from mild misalignment of my spine which lead to lower back problems from one day to another after I lifted very heavy load. At my 34 I felt like an old lady who had to bend very carefully and slowly before lifting a child or loading the dishes into the dishwasher. I had difficulty to stand upright for more than 15 minutes, especially early in the morning. Gradually I started the Yoga class nearby and felt immediately that it relieves me from pain in the lower back. I dived into the study about Yoga and become totally engrossed into Yoga science. Yoga is my best friend. It helps me to hear my inner voice and realign my mind and body. However, the fact that I started Yoga practice very late in my life and I had already different minor injuries in my body is restricted me from doing all postures “correctly”, as they suggest in the Yoga books or by most Yoga Instructors. I tried different Yoga studios and found that many Yoga teachers made some adjustment which through my practice back because they bring back my old injuries into the surface. After studying Yoga Teaching I understood that in Yoga Practice the most important is the intention of the movement rather than the final alignment, the process of the movement, rather than the final result. Each body is very different and unique. And one should respect the limits of the body. For a different person, the focus could be different for the same asana, and this focus could change with time. Gradually overcoming restriction of the body one can find a new dimension of the posture.
Let’s take Virabhadrasana – Warrior posture variation 1. All the instructions on Yoga books will tell you to put the back hill on the floor and root into the edge of the back foot, absolutely do not lift it from the floor. Having very tight hips and groins and injury in the knee I found it difficult to fulfil this requirement. Every time I was putting the hill on the floor I had my knee skewed and it created discomfort in the knee. So for a long period, I was keeping the hill out of the floor which compromised stability and that is why my focus was improving the groundless and staidness of the posture by strengthening the legs and aligning the pelvis. As soon as I become more stable and grounded I could extend my body up to the sky, get the energy and psychological effect of increased courage and self-confidence. This is a simple example of how one can modify his alignment and focus on the qualities which he needs to build instead of trying to meet perfect alignment in the posture. Another example is Warrior posture Variation 2. The classical alignment is to have middle of the back foot on the same line with the front foot. It is understandable if you have very open hips, but if not the exact alignment will compromise the healthy alignment of the knee and hip. Again the adjustment is to keep the back leg slightly out of the direction of the front foot. Focus on the aligning the hips and shoulders and their integrity, stability and at the same time openness of the body. The next stage is to find the centre of the openness, the centre of the internal strength which allows you to be specious, courageous and embrace the world. This centre will move for the same person with time, so it is always worth to check it time after time without expectation of where it should be, note where you feel now, at this particular moment of time and space. Then you can use different hand mudras to find the one which intensifies your sensations.
I am an ordinary woman like many of my students, without any sport background and mild scoliosis which allows me to understand the challenges of Yoga practice of normal people. In my class, I always remind my student to respect their body and focus on the intention of the body rather than achieving perfect alignment. And another important point is to be always great full to your body and even to the injuries. Accept them, do not fight with them. They allow us to become who you are. They allowed me to become a Yoga Teacher.